Friday, June 26, 2015

Judaism on Turning Three

There is a little known celebration in Judaism for when a child turns three.  No, let me correct that, for when a boy turns three. (yes, there is more to that, yes I'll get to it.) 

There is a statement in the Talmud that compares men to trees, and according to the Torah (commandment 'orlah') you aren't supposed to take fruit or cut a tree until it's third season.  So, since boys are like trees, we don't cut a boys hair until he turns three.

Seems simple, at least when you look up the term Upershin, it seems like a simple little haircut. 

But the reality is so much more...

I went to my first Upershin this past week.  It was absolutely stunning.  The decor, the atmosphere, the celebration.  I love the people who's son we were celebrating.  I have nothing but goodwill and heart-felt congratulations for them.  But I have a lot of problems with an upershin.  And no, none of them have to do with the hair.

The thing they don't really convey with all of their definitions of haircutting is the underlying premise of the whole exercise.  A child's change from being an observer of mitzvot to beginning to learn mitzvot and be responsible for creating good in the world.

Go back and read that again.  Yup.  That's the ticket.  This is what we're really celebrating at an upershin.  It goes way beyond a boy wearing a kippah and tzitzit.  This boy is going to start his formal education in Judaism and start to learn what he needs to know to be a Jewish adult.  Because remember, we only have until he's 13 to teach him everything he needs to know on that score.  We are taking him education in hand today, and starting to impress upon him the gloriousness that is Judaism and Torah.

So let's get back to the real issue.  Why is this only for boys?

It just so happens that an Upershin would be perfect for EG.  My darling daughter hasn't had her hair cut since she's been born.  We have been telling her since she's started asking that she gets her hair cut at three.  Why three you ask- Working Dad just picked that number  at random.  Coincidence?

There is another theory out there about why we wait until three to cut a boys hair.  Again starting at commandment 'orlah' but branching out in a totally different direction.  The Torah is the Tree of Life, and since we are commanded not to partake of the fruits of a tree for the first three years of growth, so it would go that in the first three years of our lives the lessons of the Torah, or the 'fruits of the Tree of Life', is off limits to us.  Torah isn't always easy.  It's not like reading Spot.  At age three, the theory is, our understanding has developed enough to begin learning Torah.  We finally get a taste of the fruit from the 'Tree of Life.'

At the upershin it's customary to have the child start his Torah study right there- usually with a Hebrew alphabet covered in honey.  It's a celebration of the start of an obligation.  That's right, a celebration of an obligation.  On Sunday he didn't need to wear tzitzit, but on Monday he does.  And by celebrating it in this way it makes it something joyous to do, not a negative association.

Now I would be amiss if I didn't point out that there's a tradition that a girl starts lighting candles when she turns three, but somehow the impact of lighting candles and what happens at an upsherin are vastly different.  It's also cloaked in halachic confusion, and also intensely clear that even if you support her lighting the candle her candle cannot count for the obligation to perform the mitzvot.

It all comes down to how we teach our girls what it means to be Jewish at our earliest opportunities.   Singing songs about Ama lighting candles and Abba going to shul; Challah-making for girls, Torah study for boys.

I don't want EG or Ocho to think that Torah isn't sweet.  I want them to have the fruits of the Torah as well.  I want both of my girls to delight in baking challah, learning Talmud, questioning tradition and talking to G-d.  I want all the opportunities of a Jewish life to come easily to them both.  

I could only find one other account of a Jewish girls Upsherin.  While we won't be having her haircut be part of this ritual, I'm determined to celebrate my daughter's transition from babyhood to childhood.  I'm determined to find the spirit in the Upershin and bring it out in EG. 

Here's to a haircut!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

One Smart Cookie

I'm constantly amazed by EG.  Yesterday she was desperate to watch Frozen.  But Mommy kept telling her that it was such a nice day outside that it wasn't time for a movie.  So what did EG diecde to do....?

Around 4pm I put Ocho down for her second nap.  Both EG and I ran into my room to look at Ocho on her baby monitor.  Eg spotted my teddy bear on the bed, and immediately started getting excited that our teddies could be friends. 

"Mommy- our teddies are sisters.  No, yours is the mommy, look it's bigger than mine.  Hold your teddy Mommy."

Fast forward five minutes to...

"Mommy, you don't feel well.  That's why you need your teddy.  I'll get my doctoring stuff."

Eg runs around the house gathering assorted doctoring materials from her bedroom. 

"Mommy- I check your ears.  It takes a long time.  Then we check your temperature.  You have a fever.  You need to stay in bed.  I'll call the doctor"

"But EG, I thought you were the doctor."

"No Mommy, I'm the nurse, I take care of you."

She runs away, then comes back about 3 minutes later.  I'm thinking I've got it made- naptime for Mommy too?!

"Mommy, the doctor is coming.  But we need to make you feel better.  I'll brush your hair."

She brings two dolly hairbrushes and my de-tangling spray from the bathroom.

"Here Mommy.  This will make you better.  I'll go get your bottle."

Oh, I'm thinking, I'm a baby now.  That's okay, babies get to sleep too.

"Mommy, you need to get your bear and come to the couch.  We have to put on Ana and Elsa, they will make you feel better.  The doctor told me it would make you feel better while we wait for him.  HeThe boy doctor and the girl doctor are coming after dinner.  I'm the nurse, I'll take care of you."

Wow- what just happened?  Is this what she thinks makes her feel better when she's sick.  How are we know watching Elsa and Ana?  OMG- I just got PLAYED!

I'm trying so hard to figure out why she thinks she's not the doctor (cue nervous mom who thinks that her daughter dosen't have high enough ambitions, or enough science, etc.) but what's really going on here- a ploy for Frozen.

But don't worry, when we were watching it she made sure to tell me that the doctor was on the way, and that I shouldn't be scared because she was here for me.

Wow EG- you are one smart girlie!


Monday, June 22, 2015

5 best gifts for a three year old.

or...at least my three year old.  Yup- My darling EG is turning three this weekend.  I can't believe it's been that long since I gave birth to her, and that she's growing up so fast.  It seems like only yesterday I was getting married, and that just before that I was pregnant for the first time.

In honor of my darling EG, I would like to present her hearts desires:

1. Chapstick.

 
 Specifically the EOS brand of adorable ball chapstick that she's seen Mommy carrying around.  She's been asking me for a while for her own, and somehow I said, when you are three.  And she's turning three, so I guess I'll have to get her some.  It's not cheap as far as chapstick goes, and lord knows that she ends up eating at least half of it since she's decided that it needs to cover her chin too, but this Lemon version has SPF 15, so at least that's something...

2.  Pillow.


EG has been wanting a pillow forever.  I didn't realize that she needed a special one, so the first one I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond was a total bust.  She hated it, I hated it.  What a diaster.  So, I snuck that one away and out came the now famous words "not until you are three."  Which is this week.  So I've decided to buy this Kinder Fluff pillow. Reviews are great, it's not that expensive, and I think she'll like it.  And it will also stop her from using the decorative owl pillow I bought her, which can't be good for her or the pillow anymore.

3. Flip Flops

This is the only thing that she desperately wants that I am taking great pains to buy nice for her.  While the pillow is also a practical thing, I'm not sure it's really practical for her, but flip flops- a necessity at this point.  Everyone else in the family has rainbows, so EG isn't any exception.  I debated buying them online, but with the store so close to Great Grandpa in San Clemente, I think we'll get them in person for her.  She's totally psyched about having them.  Just a little backstory- we've been avoiding getting them because she hated things between her toes, but I think she'll be okay now.

4. A Haircut

EG has been wanting to get a haircut for at least a year now.  It all started when Janie and Joe's haircutting moved into the neighborhood.  We go to that park, and when we go she would see all the toys and really want to go in there.  Then Jacob (her cousin) gets haircuts all the time- she wants to be like him.  But Working Dad is so against haircuts.  And luckily for me there is a tradition in Judaism to get your haircut at three years old.  Yes, I know what you are thinking- that tradition only applies to boys.  Well, it's a tradition, not a law.  And anyways if we're not supposed to cut trees for three years, then I'll associate my daughter with a tree if I want to.  So here's to next Saturday's haircut!  Let's hope she likes it when it's all said and done.

5. Strawberry Cake
PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast
Yup my girlie is specifying the cake she wants already.  Of course, it was really the only thing I've let her specify about this party.  So I guess I'll do my best to beg, borrow, or bake one for her.  It will be a bit hard to do the baking, since I've packed up most of my packing pans.  I think Suzy Cakes will have to do for this year...  But doesn't this look yummy?
 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rambam on Marraige

When we think about parenting, we don't always think about marriage.  But I believe that at the core of every new human being are the two people who created that life.  Does it always have to be that way, absolutely not.  Sometimes it's just not to be that the people who created life will raise up that child.  But I still think that one of the most important things that we can do for our children is prioritize our marriages.

It's interesting to me, because one of the core beliefs in Judaism is that it's critical to have children (the first of the 613 mitzvot: Be fruitful and multiply) but, as we all know, first comes love then comes marriage then comes the baby in the baby carriage.

After I shared last week about how difficult it's been to be a solo parent I don't think I gave enough voice to how hard it is to be without your spouse.  I got married because I wanted to be with my husband.  To form a bond with him of the highest sense- to fuse our souls together as one.  But it's not always easy.



Rambam gives us some interesting thoughts on marriage:

Our Sages commanded that a man honor his wife more than his own person, and love her as he loves his own person. If he has financial resources, he should offer her benefits in accordance with his resources. He should not cast a superfluous measure of fear over her. He should talk with her gently, being neither sad nor angry.
 
And similarly, they commanded a woman to honor her husband exceedingly and to be in awe of him. She should carry out all her deeds according to his directives, considering him to be an officer or a king. She should follow the desires of his heart and shun everything that he disdains.

This is the custom of holy and pure Jewish women and men in their marriages. And these ways will make their marriage pleasant and praiseworthy.

Now, these phrases are caught up in  a lot of text about having babies, getting divorced, and letting your husband have his way with you, but I think these portions have a place in everyone's life. 

It can often seem a burden to relate to your spouse in the best way possible. To give them the respect you know they deserve, because you also know that their job is to love you anyways. That you have been nice to the gardener, the mail man, the grocer, the co-worker and your boss today and you don't have any niceness in you left for your kids let alone for your husband. 

But then we remember Shalom Bayit (peace in the home) and we remember that we alone can change our fate.  We are in charge of our own actions and our own happiness.  I can choose to see the glass half empty or half full.  Heck, I can just add more water!

It's giving our spouses respect that can add water to the well. 

My mom used to tell me about the Well of Goodwill that each person has for another.  Ironically your well of goodwill is most full with an absolute stranger you see on the street.  You've just drilled a new hole in the ground for them and they've yet to do anything to take the water out.  With your spouses, however, your well is a constantly shifting experience. 

Today he brought you flowers and added some water.  But later he left his dirty socks on the clean laundry and dropped that bucket of water all over the floor. 

If we think of filling our well by showing respect to our spouses we need not worry about love.  Through our respectful actions, thoughts and care we will inherently add both water in our well and love in our hearts.



Rambam gives us a foundation for understanding that love is not the end all be all of a relationship.  We all know that there are moments in our lives when we don't feel love at all- we feel disappointment, anger, resentment and a whole host of other feelings.  But honor and respect are more than just feelings- they are actions.  They are the way we honestly and truly love our spouse for them self.

What is love at it's base?  A feeling that I have for you.  It has nothing to do with you.  How often have we seen people in love with someone who doesn't feel the same for them?  My classic example right now is Sheldon and Amy from the Big Bang Theory.  She loves him, but he barely thinks about his emotions at all.  When I love you I'm feeling something inside of me, not really something about you.

But honor and respect are ways that I interact with valuing you.  They show you that I care about you on a deeper and more fundamental level than my self-love. 

Beyond respect and honor Rambam gives us some truth about me being from Mars and Women from Venus.  He clearly tells us that a woman wants to be shown her love through actions (accordance to his means) and words (talk with her gently).  She wants to think that she is the most important thing in the world (honor her more, love him as himself)

While a man needs to be shown his respect by being seen as competent and capable of making decisions (according to his directives) and that he needs to be validated in her world (shun everything he disdains). 

While Working Dad and are in this separation and in this melting pot of stress and trouble I can see only to clearly how much Rambam knows.  I am constantly telling him that I want him to prioritize us over the weekends, that I want to see his love and hear his thoughts.  He is constantly feeling like he has to make all these decisions and be on top of everything for fear that it might all fall apart.

But if we can find a way to come back to the beginning.  Back to the respect we all deserve then our marriage's foundation will go from fragile sand to hard cement.  If we can think with our minds not that the well is full or empty, but that we can constantly be adding water to it then I know we will all be alright.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Childcare at 24 Hour Fitness

I've been trying to get back into shape for doing triathalons, etc.  It's been rough, since I don't feel like I've ever gotten back my strength since having EG, let alone feeling like I've got it since having Ocho.

So, I did something a bit crazy.  I signed myself up for personal training sessions at 24 hour fitness.  I'm thrilled with my trainer, but I'd be lying if I said it was going as well as I thought it would.  It's not.  It's so hard with Ocho's unpredictable sleep schedule to feel good, arrive at a pre-determined time with Ocho happy, etc.  But, I have been very happy with my trainer, and with the childcare facilities at the Hermosa Beach 24 hour fitness.

The facility is actually very nice.  They have a huge indoor play gym, sort of like McDonalds.  Then they have a great floor space.  They have a nice are set-up for the babies/crawlers so they can make sure that they aren't getting trampled by the older kiddos. 

They have a flexible rotation of people, and they have a limit of 24 kiddos that they can have with two staff members.  The interesting thing is that my child (any baby under 24months older than 6 months) is considered three children.  A child under 36 months counts as two children.  So they can call additional staff if needed to add more children.

It's $5 for two hours per child for drop in care.  Or you can sign-up for a month of care for $25, where you can drop off your child as much as you want. I signed Ocho up for the full month, but I don't think I've gotten my money worth yet.  They won't change diapers, and they won't keep your kiddo if they are crying inconsolably.  I totally understand both of those things, but it makes it a bit tricky and expensive if you have to leave your training session to come get your baby.

In  order to check in they have you put in your pin, your fingerprint and they attach a sticker to your baby.  You have to be the same person who picks up the kiddo, so it's not like you and hubbie could switch off.  They won't be responsible for giving kiddo to someone else.

However, they do allow you to store baby stuff there in a set of cubicles, and as you can see behind her, they are happy to keep your carseat too, so if baby is still sleeping it's totally fine.


They have a large selection of toys, and they also do some themes and crafts depending upon the holiday. Can you tell I took this picture in February and it's taken me this long to write up this post?!?  They almost always have a movie playing, which I don't love, but it's totally appropriate for the age range.

Overall I'm happy with the care provided. And here in the beach cities I didn't even tell you the best part.  Right across the way is a My Gym, so if you have an older kiddo who might be too old for this daycare space, you can register them in a drop-off class at My Gym while baby brother or sister plays at the fitness center.  Both kiddos taken care of.

The hours are 8-1pm, then again from 4-6pm.  I've never been turned away, but it is a first come first served place. The only other odd thing is that they only allow one adult dropping off a child in their space at a time for safety reasons, but of course they don't have that posted anywhere....


Friday, June 12, 2015

An Ode to Military Mamas

These past few months have been some of the hardest of my life.  I didn't think that things could get much more difficult after having a newborn and having my Mom die out of the blue.  But I was wrong.  While all of that was happening at least I had Working Dad at home to cry to and fight with.  Now it's just me and the kiddos.

I've talked about this solo parenting thing before, but I just can't believe how hard it is. 

For me the hardest part is that I'm not a single parent.  I know that seems strange, it's not that I want to be a single parent, but having him flit in and out of our lives like this makes it just so so hard.  Now, Working Dad, please don't read/read to much into this, it's not that you are doing something wrong, it's just the way life is.

Which brings me to some of my new heroes.  The mamas (and some Daddys) who stay at home while their counterpart is off in the military.  Case in point- my wonderful cousin with her hubbie and two kiddos. 

She did the whole after birth thing/raising her daughter without Daddy for months after she was born.  But she wasn't actually alone.  Her wonderful husband has always been a part of their daughter life.  Phone calls, e-mails, etc. Breaks and time away to be at home, etc.  But while he's a parent (and a damn good one at that) he's not there everyday.  Everyday it's mommy and babies and Daddy as a far off figure.

This is what makes it so hard and amazing.  That these women are constantly helping their children understand that Daddy loves them, and is doing his job somewhere else.  That he's not with them, but that's not what matters.  They deal with the emotions of Dad's to short visits, and phone calls. They deal with breakfast and bed time and everything in between.  And I am in awe of them.


They are sacrificing for me.  For my children.  For our family and all the families in America.  They are taking on the burden of solo parenting for the sake of our safety.  They guide their children through life and battle those difficult moments for the safety of America.

Even when Daddy comes home they are at the whim of something bigger than them.  Transfers and orders and things they just can't pick and choose about.  At least I made this choice all on my own. And I can change it in an instant.

We're doing it for Working Dad's new job.  Had I known exactly what I was getting into, I might have chosen differently.

But my cousin- she is truly the hero.  Everyday raising her wonderful and gorgeous babies.  Thank you to you and your Husband for making us safe in our beds at night.  For giving me vision to see that I can do this.  That I get to talk to my hubbie each night and that the few times I was in tears and overwhelmed he just got in his car and showed up on my doorstep an hour later.  She didn't have that option.  She, and they, are amazing.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Five Year's Past

Five years ago I married the love of my life.  Five years ago we stood under the chuppah promising to make a home together and a family.  We took vows, signed paperwork, and made a commitment.


I can't believe how much has changed in these five years.  For the good, the bad, the in-between.

For dinner on Sunday night I made Anne Burrell's braised lamb (make the gremolata- it really takes the flavors up a notch!)  I took the lamb out of the freezer at about 10am, and at about 2pm I realized I had better get cooking or those lamb shanks wouldn't be good eating for anyone.  And then I pureed my veggies, realized I didn't have carrots so made a substitution, browned my lamb, added my wine.   I just did it all and threw it in the oven.

As Working Dad and I took our first bites he asked me if I would have been able to do that five years ago.  And I couldn't help but think back to the dinners I was making then.

I've always been a decent cook, but throwing together braised lamb without a care in the world and a tiny human holding on to my pants legs- that was a different experience altogether.  There's no way that I would have been doing a recipe like that without tons of stress and worry.  I didn't even know what I was going to do with the lamb until about 2:30pm when I decided to look up a few recipes.  But that's not quite the point...

It wasn't until he said anything that I realized that I've changed so much too.


1. I've grown happy in my mothering.  It's not scary, or overwhelming.  Each day has it's ups and downs, but as Samantha from Sex in the City says "I'm happy everyday.  Not all day everyday, but everyday."  Sometimes EG and Ocho are just making me want to scream.  But honestly, I love it all.  It feels good have a day when everything clicks into place with the dishes, the laundry, games and fun with the kiddos and love with my husband.  But even on those days when nothing falls into place I value being a mother every day.

2. I've grown happy in being a wife.  It makes me happy to work towards Shalom Bayit in my household.  To focus my thoughts and attentions on him and his world.  To do my best to make our home a lovely place to come home to, a place he wants to be and enjoy.  Sometimes we aren't on the same page, but the flowers he brings me help me know that we're all in it together.

3. I've grown contented in my beliefs.  Being Jewish has always been a core part of who I am, but as I've had children, become a wife I've reached deeper and deeper into my faith to find answers.  The Torah has so many lessons for us, and the commandments are wonderful guidelines to help us find answers.  Whenever I've reached a tremendous cross-road in my life I've come to realize that Torah has the answer.

4. I need my extended family more than ever.  Being without my mom has been so very difficult.  It's still a challenge every day to miss her, not talk to her, and not be able to hear her laughter.  The hugs one gets from a mom aren't found anywhere else.  It's not something that's been five year's in the making, but I'm hoping that as we cross over the one year mark here in a few months that I'll be able to learn to live with her, without her a bit better.  It's taught me just how valuable and important my family is.  To truly enjoy the sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins that I have.  I only wish that some of them didn't make it so difficult to love them.
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